Corvette Racing have clinched the American Le Mans GT1 team championship, and Chevrolet the GT1 manufacturers' championship, after Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta took their fourth win in five races to lead a Corvette one-two at Road America.

The 'Ollies' took the flag in the #4 C6-R with an advantage of just 0.132secs over the sister car of Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell and have now closed to within three points of the #3 C6-R pairing with three races left on the calendar.

"Chevrolet races to win in every series, so it's a great day when Chevy wraps up its fifth consecutive ALMS manufacturers championship," Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan said. "There was some intense, exciting racing on the track today. If the race had gone one more lap, the outcome might have been different."

An unscheduled pit stop proved to be the decisive moment for the #4 Corvette during the race. Gavin started on the GT1 pole for the two-hour, 45-minute 'sprint' race, and led the class through the first hour and 13 minutes. Then on a restart following the first caution period, Gavin had to battle the Saleen S7R of Johnny Mowlem, with unexpected results.

"The Saleen made a banzai run past me on the restart, and as he came by, he gave me a smack on the side," Gavin recalled. "Then he left the door open going into turn one and I dived up the inside and took the position. Unfortunately I locked the brakes and flat-spotted the left front tyre with that pass. I continued to race, but the performance was definitely down and we had to change the tyre. I was fortunate when the next caution came out; it was an opportune time for us to pit."

Beretta replaced Gavin and the team changed four tyres and refuelled the car under the yellow flag. That stop put the #4 Corvette out of sequence with its sister car, but dropped Beretta to fourth in the class standings. Nineteen minutes later, he was back in second.

The #3 Corvette pitted for a green-flag stop at the one-hour, 53-minute mark, with O'Connell replacing Fellows, and the team changing four tyres and refuelling. Three minutes later, the #4 was in the pits for its third stop; a quick 18-second stop for gas only gave Beretta a commanding lead.

"We only had to fill half a tank, and that's faster than doing a full stop with a change of tyres," crew chief Ray Gongla explained "That's where we gained position, and that make the difference. It just happened that the pit stops benefited the #4 Corvette today."

However not changing the tyres didn't make things easy for Beretta on track.

"The car was a little difficult to drive at the end because the tyres had so many laps on them," he said. "The last thing I wanted was to have contact with my team-mate, so I was careful in traffic and didn't take any risks. It was important for Corvette Racing to finish first and second."

Gavin was also delighted to see the pair recover from the earlier problem to take the win, and continue the recent momentum which has seen the pair close in on the title leaders.

"It's amazing how these races can turn around," he said. "We got a bit of luck today. Olivier did a fantastic job in that last stint, and it was obviously difficult to drive on those tires after so many laps. He performed extremely well under intense pressure from Johnny. As always, it was close between the #3 and #4 Corvettes.

"Everybody at Corvette Racing has done a fantastic job with the new C6-R to win the manufacturers championship with three races to go. Things have fallen into place for Olivier and myself over the last few races, and we just want to keep that momentum going. It's going to be really close [for the drivers' title] through the end of the year."

However O'Connell did his best to make sure it was the other Corvette which came out on top as he cut Beretta's margin from 15 seconds to a heartbeat in the final 45 minutes, racing nose-to-tail with his team-mate in the closing laps before settling for second.

"I think the #3 car was the stronger of the two today, but sometimes things don't go your way," he said. "The fact that we could come back strong at the finish shows that we had a great race car today. Anytime it's a one-two Corvette finish, it's a good result."

Fellows agreed with his team-mate that the #3 car had been the one on the pace during the race.

"We were running race laps only a second off our qualifying times, and that's just outstanding," he said. "The car was working really well after we made a tire pressure adjustment on the first pit stop. The C6-R is an absolute treat to drive around a race track like Road America. When you have a good car, there aren't many tracks that are as much fun as this one."

 

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